RAF on the Offensive, The Rebirth of Tactical Air Power 1940-1941

The author has produced a detailed view of how the RAF addressed a serious deficiency to build an impressive tactical air power. The RAF had neglected tactical air power, leaving the Army exposed and, without urgent correction, landing troops in Occupied Europe successfully would be impossible. – Very Highly Recommended.

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NAME: RAF on the Offensive, The Rebirth of Tactical Air Power 1940-1941
FILE: R3124
AUTHOR: Greg Baughen
PUBLISHER: Air World, Pen & Sword 
BINDING: hard back
PRICE: £25.00                                                               
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War II, World War 2, Second World War, air war, tactical air 
power, heavy bombers, medium bombers, multi-role aircraft, lift bombers, Army 
co-operation, ground attack, fighters, fighter bombers, interdiction, air superiority

ISBN: 1-52673-515-6

PAGES: 304
IMAGE: B3124.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/tbuu7ap
DESCRIPTION: The author has produced a detailed view of how the RAF addressed 
a serious deficiency to build an impressive tactical air power. The RAF had 
neglected tactical air power, leaving the Army exposed and, without urgent 
correction, landing troops in Occupied Europe successfully would be impossible. 
– Very Highly Recommended.

This is an important book addressing an area of the air war that has received less than 
its share of attention.

When the RAF was formed in 1918, it inherited tactical air power from the RFC that 
was staffed by the Army and developed during WWI to support the land forces. In 
fact, the first operational use of all-arms rapid movement forces was undertaken by 
co-ordining large formations of tanks with supporting infantry, artillery and ground 
attack aircraft as the British broke through the German trench lines. 

It also inherited from the Royal Navy a highly advanced shipboard air force, a 
balanced tactical air force, long range maritime patrol, and an effective strategic air 
force, staffed by naval personnel of the RNAS. The motive for forming the RAF was 
a perceived cost saving and the ability to concentrate on strategic bombing, although 
the RAF had no interest in the planned RN Carrier Task Force attack on the German 
High Seas Fleet in port which would have made a major impact on the war, as was 
demonstrated in WWII with a smaller scale attack on the Italian fleet in port and the 
Japanese attack, inspired by the raid on Italy, on the US Pacific Fleet in port at Pearl 
Harbour. The long range heavy bombers built for the RNAS were used against 
Germany in a strategic operation, but the first year of the RAF was still largely a 
continuation of the Army RFC tactical air power.

Almost as soon as it was formed, the RAF was at peace and being savagely cut, 
losing many of its trained air crews in the staffing cuts. It was to maintain long 
distance flying, but mainly with flying boats, to develop air communications across 
the Empire. However, its major activity was the first shock and awe operations on a 
modest scale to police tribal rebels in the Middle East. Anti-aircraft fire was largely 
in the form of flintlock muzzle loading rifles, allowing WWI designed single engine 
aircraft to roam at will, strafing villages and dropping relatively small bombs. The 
RAF remained a biplane air force almost to the declaration of war in 1939. Most 
aircraft were single engine machines, little faster, or more robust, than those that 
fought from the middle of WWI. The heaviest bombers were twin engine medium 
bombers of uninspiring performance with the first monoplanes little advanced. The 
Fairy Battle was a light bomber that suffered very heavy losses during the Battle of 
France. The Whitley was a somewhat pedestrian twin engine machine, but with an 
effective defensive armament in power operated turrets, the Blenheims and 
Hampdens were lightly armed and only the unique geodetic Wellington showed real 
promise. Much concentration was on the production of Hurricanes and Spitfires to 
correct the inadequacy of fighter protection, but there were many promising designs 
moving toward production and squadron service.

Amazing strides were made during 1940 and 1941 to build a tactical air force. The 
Battle of Britain dominated the news and much of subsequent interest from historians. 
Bomber Command then came to dominate attention in a very costly strategic bomber 
campaign that was largely a great success. RAF maritime warfare and tactical air 
power has received rather less attention. Both were critical to success in defeating 
Germany.

The author has provided a detailed review of the progress to effective tactical air 
power. Without this work, amphibious warfare, landing troops on North African and 
European beaches, would have been terribly costly and unlikely to have succeeded. 
The RAF was very ably supported by the British aircraft industry and also received 
many capable machines from the US. These aircraft ranged across the Channel 
bringing German fighters up and steadily gaining air superiority. In North Africa, 
Hurricane fighters with 40mm canons became effective tank killers. P40s proved very 
effective ground attack aircraft and the list of powerful new designs continued to 
expand, the Mosquito performing in a multitude of tactical roles and the Typhoon, 
with cannon and rockets, provided a major success. Just how effective these aircraft 
were is demonstrated by the German counter-attack in the Battle of the Bulge. Initial 
German success was during bad weather that prevented close air support of Allied 
troops. As the weather cleared the tactical air force soon helped the ground troops 
drive the Germans back.